A critical assessment of Idle No More

Lerat Wendy Lynn

Wendy Lynn Lerat

By Wendy Lynn Lerat, July 17, 2013

Good evening good people

With all due respect to the opinions expressed here I am in agreement with much of the posts I have read of Ian’s over the past few days. I am encouraged to see that finally there is a growing awareness of the need to challenge the INM ‘movement’ and I would like to state that not only must the position be challenged the significant risk its position places on the true grassroots’ movement be exposed.
Neocolonialism is the growing middle class movement that is spreading across the world. It self-identifies wherever it is as a grassroots activist movement yet it is dominated by individuals who are not grassroot activists. The black grassroots activism in the US is experiencing what is currently overtaking indigenous grassroots activism here – both ‘movements’ propagate the idea that the crisis can be ‘fixed’ within the current system and social order. As a result, both maintain the status quo and the current class system.

If nothing else, common sense should tell us that using the same constructs of the current system to address the crisis before us will ensure that the names and faces of those in ‘power’ will change – not the system itself. Using the same thinking that got us into this mess to get us out is a sure recipe for failure.

We need a revolution that forces a system change. A shift that completely turns upside down the current system’s model of governance and directly empowers the most oppressed, the poorest, the most voiceless. It must redefine human relationships, community as family, localization as opposed to globalization, and it must be driven by a spiritual awakening that shifts the internal universe of those who are champions within it to model selfessness – not ego. Not the witigo syndrome that has overtaken all humans on Turtle Island since contact.

As climate change further destroys our world, the world we all live in will become increasingly harsher – selfish individuals will soon become those who place at risk the security of those around them. Communities that foster processes that build community interdependence will fair much better than those who perpetuate individualism. Time unfortunately will prove me correct in this.

The four 'official' founders of Idle No More.

The four ‘official’ founders of Idle No More.

INM is top down. It is incorporated and by definition uses corporate governance to carry-out its activities. Corporate governance is the point at the top of the triangle – the highest level of authority and power under that model of governance… this is corporate governance and this model of governance is colonial.

INM attracts very ego-centric individuals to it. I have personally witnessed this tendency from the beginning. An ego-driven ‘movement’ is destined to fail. And from what I am witnessing the smoke-and-mirrors of the last eight months is beginning to reveal the shaky foundation upon which INM was built. It has not been an authentic response from the beginning. From its inception, INM has perpetuated the lie of the current system by fighting for change / reform of it. Will reforming the Canadian government policy agenda really affect lasting meaningful change that results social justice for all? For climate justice? No. It will not. Why? Because the entire global system must be changed.Idle No More feather flag graphic

Only an authentic grassroots movement that awakens and empowers the most oppressed – those at the very bottom of the current social order – can achieve this. INM has not been effective in doing this and will never be. Why? It is top down.

INM took off because of social media. It did so not because the ‘founders’ had any strategy or real sense of work that needs to occur to address the global crisis. It became a phenomena not because any one of the founders had any deep understanding of any of the global issues. INM piggy-backed on the work of countless activists who had been the ones turning the soil and planting the seeds. Yet, the founders claimed the harvest as their own and from the beginning have refused to work alongside of any of those who had actually laid the groundwork for the awakening that occurred. And in doing so, in my opinion have and continue to effectively misguide 1000’s towards a vision of a ‘new Canada’ not a new system.

As a witness to these events, I am quite confident in the accuracy of my assessment and I am equally confident that as a ‘movement’ it will not last. There is nothing to it.

And no, I bear no dark hatred or burning jealousy toward any of the founders. In fact, the less any of us focus on INM and the more we focus on building a real movement of THE PEOPLE the better.

My advice? Don’t worry about INM. Form strategies and alliances separate from INM, disconnect from reformist voices, and ensure that the local voices empower local system change.” – Wendy Lynn Lerat

Wendy Lynn Lerat grew up on Cowessess First Nation located in Treaty 4 territory along the Qu’Appelle Valley in southern Saskatchewan.

Posted on July 17, 2013, in Decolonization and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. i so totally agree i jumped into INm in november as one of the hosts .. collecting info . some were used .. the decision on posts was done else where .. i supported full hardheartedly the movement .. but since have felt very disillusioned with INM .. i believe we are wasting precious time being ” good ndn’s ” … daily rights are been taken .. there is still time to reverse some of the damage to the earth .. others are lost forever … coming from a radical back ground it so pissed me off that i bought into the movement .. and as for grassroots you are right does not come from the four women .. there exposing of the termination and the surge of people that were the beginning i must give them credit .. now i rarely post on INM .. i still go to some events .. and so realize that to move forward we need action not words .. there are so many struggles happening .. whitekkklay .. and NB 126 has been on going ,,, i strongly believe the only land claims that should happen is to start occupying our trap lines … summer /winter camps much like Unis’tot’em have done … gilakasla for your post

  2. Wendy Lynn Lerat is a couragious woman with a warrior spirit. She is guided by the long search for wisdom, and her energies are directed toward bettering the human condition.

    She sees the future with a clarity that is shared by too few, especially when considering the many great forces arrayed against this small Fellowship.

    I believe she only speaks for herself to the extent that she must be counted among the people she is striving to save.

    The fundamental message I hear from her is “WAKE UP”. Do not continue to live in denial, do not choose ignorance instead of striving for knowledge and eventual wisdom.

    Take back your power to care for each other, as well as the four legged, the winged and the other living things of this Creation.

    This is the time of the 8th Fire. It is the beginning of the End, or the End of the Beginning.

    The choice is ours.

    Megwitch, Thunder Sky Waiting!

  3. Reblogged this on 4 the love of the People and commented:
    Loved this critical assessment of Idle No More.

  4. Reblogged this on jodilynnblanchette and commented:
    Wendy- You expressed what many were thinking

  5. ok Tracey you make sense. Now follow through with leadership. Where do we the ones that agree and believe begin.

  6. I so apologize I meant Wendy where do we begin.

  7. Niawenkowa for these true, honest and necessary words.

  8. An interesting assessment. I think that it is not up to us to change the Canadian system because that is not ours to change (even though Canada wants us to think it is ours). I think that Idle No More, and perhaps this is more personal than anything, is about creating a system that works for my community, for your community. and so on…it is about respect from the government of Canada and coexistence with the settlers. Perhaps one day we will have a system for our communities that is working and others will look to it as a model or international relations will create a majority where Canada has no choice but to change for the better. To me INM overall is about self-educating and self-awareness, a good place to start. I thank you for being critical, always an important part of this process.

  9. This is lateral oppression and comments that don’t agree are silenced. I smell a Le-RAT

  10. A grassroots movement (often referenced in the context of a political movement) is one driven by the politics of a community. The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures. Grassroots movements are often at the local level, as many volunteers in the community give their time to support…..
    When this movement began, it awakened many people to the atrocities that were occurring within our country pertaining to the treaties and the environment. All people were encouraged to set up gatherings, to use their creative skills to bring awareness to others.
    Many of us were unaware, as are most people. to the destruction, abuse that was occurring in the world, but we are awake now and more are awakening.
    I have always said that if you dont stand with INM, at least stand up for what is right to stand against the continued abuse of Natives peoples and Mother Earth.
    The INM name was patent, so that all grassroots people could use the logo, this was stated right from the beginning.
    All things are colonial from the homes we live in, the energies we utilize, the products,clothing etc. we buy, the tickets we purchase, the food we buy, to the very computer in which this article appears, many are looking at healthier ways to decolonize but not one of us can say we are completely decolonized, this is one part of the journey of awakening.
    The top down approach that you speak of is very evident in this article, first accusing everyone in INM as being ego- centric, what I have seen is people gathering, praying, sharing their stories, ideas, giving of their time and resources, learning and reaching out to others within the communities.
    We are not perfect, any of us, hopefully we learn from this, continue to pray, listen to others, forgive one another and continue to stand together as people towards a better way, for all life.
    Secondly, telling people what to do, this is a top down, very colonial way of thinking, “I know whats best for everyone”, ” Do it my way” etc.
    I believe everyone needs to decide for themselves what is right and act on what they believe or what they decide to stand with.
    Any groups that have been discouraged from INM are those that promote violence as a way of addressing the violations to the treaties and Mother Earth. My personal opinion is that in all the modern history, violence has not resolved the issues but perpetuated more violence and silenced the voices.
    To the Creator Im grateful for everything that he has made and awakened the drumbeat of my heart, within me and others. To the founding members and to each and everyone of you that I have met and talked with, you have touched my heart, Im grateful, thankful for each and everyone of you and the blessings of shared lives,dreams,prayers, thoughts, patience,kindness,respect.

  11. From Thesis to Critique to Critique to thesis of INM is always a refreshing read. I will not allow myself to side with one or the other. A Neutral party sees things from an Unbiased perspective. There a few points in Wendy’s Critique that I would assess as being a tad over critical IE: Neo-colonialism, or from the TOP DOWN- Not to mention NOT GRASSROOTS- (Enough). I had a few concerns when It was first Exposed that too much Focus was on the Four Woman as opposed to the Grassroots People and the Concept of INM. I felt it was not about these four woman, but what they and INM stood for. I will not write a whole bunch of words that people already know , and in closing I would like to say that it is always wise to have an opposition into any good Governance, movement or Resistance due to the fact it will only make this particular , the said above, stronger. or keep it on it’s toes and will keep certain aspects of it’s action(s) in Perspective. Sometimes the Head does get a little swollen and an opposition applies a cold rag to the Bump and releases some of the pressure.

  12. For me, Idle No More is not just a movement. It is a description of a lifestyle. No longer will I say and do nothing about injustice towards aboriginals and the environement. I disseminate the knowledge to others in spite (and because of) draconian government measures to silence me. I don’t care who started it or who declares it finished, or who owns the trademark. I will continue acting in the name of #INM until there is no need for it, or until I am dead, which ever comes first.

  13. First, I agree with the writer that fundamental, revolutionary structural change is required for the world to progress. Society based on class, individual wealth and discrimination must go.
    That being said, let’s be careful not to throw away the momentum and spirit created by all the people who have participated in Idle No More, just because it isn’t perfect. It gave a great many people the confidence that things could change, the courage to dance with feathers in shopping malls, and the hope of a brighter future. It opened up communication channels between Native political leadership at many levels, intellectuals interested in these matters for many reasons, and many activists and organizers. It recruited many new activists, providing a forum where they could participate in their first demonstrations, walks, teachins, blockades and other events.
    Progressive people have an unfortunate history of over-analysis, checking for correctness until they have choked the life of a young movement. Let’s try hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.
    Let’s not pick each other to death. Let’s not schism and split until we are a few isolated people in a few lonely rooms. Let’s not scare the enthusiastic supporters away by being too expert, and making the struggle into a battle of expertise.
    Rather, let us view this as a united front, a place for people who generally agree on the problem to define it more clearly and take action toward solution, a big tent to share ideas and knowledge and experiences. In this atmosphere, it doesn’t take long to expose opportunists, police spies and other bad apples.

  14. When we play their game we play by their rules, they change the rules midgame as it suits them , We can mix common law and traditional law to make precedence, Look up the Yukon Umbrella final agreements

  15. Well, I understand as much as I can. I can agree with the assessment given. I am/was an INM supporter. I simply want desperately to see and feel real change that I keep hearing about. I can do nothing of great magnitude-just keep my children educated of these important issues and try to keep our eyes open…from what I see though-the only way to truly change the damned system is to over through all the governments, because until we forcefully take the devils out of power-nothing will change. I try hard to base my life on peaceful terms, however those that run the world could care less about you or I…..so where does that leave us?

  16. Terry Debassige

    I don’t agree with this assessment of INM. Over the decades I have witnessed well intentioned people rise up over grass roots concerns. The moment they achieve attention they are automatically perceived as out of touch with the very base they came from. And that will happen again and again to the surprise of grassroots people who gravitate toward leadership roles even though they feel they are motivated by the purest and well meaning of intentions.
    Colonialism has made a shambles of our original societies. As such we don’t have a solid construct of what our direction is yet, we have many and varied notions of what that should be. So it is an almost impossible job to be representative of how we proceed without criticism.
    “INM attracts very ego-centric individuals to it.” I think you will see this phenomenon play out in any high profile endeavour. Just be aware of the fact and try not to let it tear apart the purpose and unity because that will always be one the most difficult aspects of working together.
    I agree that INM did not have a real strategy. Pointing out its failings is necessary to build a strategy going forward. But at INM’s inception, at that point in our history we needed a catalyst to mobilize everyone. I believe it has given all the grass roots activists who have toiled over the many years added momentum. We do not have to fall under the umbrella of INM but I think it should be acknowledged for the the attention it has raised over our issues.
    We probably cannot have an all encompassing leadership and also the suggestion that the whole global system must change is key. Just like the need to go back to local food supply our strength will be in decision making at the local level and I believe based on our traditional values.
    Take what you can from INM, disregard what you don’t need but keep moving. If our reaction to what should have been an groundbreaking shift is to vilify it then that sets up the continuation our own tearing down any good that can happen. We can still build from what has happened and as our teaching say we still need each other. If we don’t acknowledge the spirit that burned however briefly it will make future advocates, especially the young and inexperienced, tentative and fearful.
    I guess what I am cautioning is that what happened to INM can happen to the next great hope.

  17. This from Jess Gordon on Idle No More Official Group on Facebook:
    Jess Gordon-
    “I would like to set up a dialogue for grassroots to address the founders. I see too much INM bashing. There are many more people who work their asses off doing work. When one bashes INM they are offending many. If anyone wants to criticize they should direct it to the right places. You have a problem with any of the 4 women, keep it directed at us and NOT INM in total. So anyways, I’m working on trying to set this up so anyone can participate, ask questions, get the answers, etc. Non profit, trademark, ” top down governance structure” lol, wtvr. Let’s get this all out there so we can MOVE ON and work on fighting the common enemy.”

  18. I really don’t see the point of this so-called movement. It doesn’t do anything for me. It doesn’t help me feed my kids or help my aged parents. I’m working two part-time jobs with no benefits right now. I sure would like a full-time one so I could help out my family and community more. Can anyone help me with that?

  19. All this talk in the ether in academe with big words twittering twattering doesn’t work if the talkers are not in community investing in relationships with people …all the strategizing in the world won’t fix the gap between relatives on dwindling SA holding the territories when others have fled…we can march and whine and cry and do ceremony and ride the iron horses and the flesh and blood horses here and there and grand stand…but if we don’t participate with each other in relationships…every day…in real time and place….it can’t work…INM is a “movement” in the technical sense…it has raised consciousness but without ways and means..economically driven it will find its outcome in the urban educational/vocational programming where the SA money has migrated…Onion Lake can’t become a movement because some FN in Treaty territories like Onion Lake are on their way having benefitted from past $$ programming and gas/oil partnerships/reserves…and others haven’t even begun and the disparity between FN within individual treaties will become an issue they will have to deal with…Ottawa will no longer be the enemy but treaty brothers and sisters will….unity in diversity requires indigenous thinking….which seems to have given away to posturing, categorizations, ideology and romanticization to avoid the hard work of living in right relations with each other. Wendy you are right….movements can only be sustained through right relations….on the ground…Ah Ah Una

  20. Marjaleena Repo

    I’m disappointed in this piece. It does not seem to be an “assessment” of any kind but a diatribe and denunciation. An assessment would need more documentation of the charges made, rather than just assuming that they become true by stating them. The author has strong “revolutionary” rhetoric herself, but does not show the way how this total revolution is to be made and by whom. It is easy to be “more revolutionary than thou” these days, but it leaves this reader for one hanging to hear Wendy Lerat put forward both her strategy and tactics for the revolution she advocates. Meanwhile, her “assessment” needs to go back to the drawing board, as it is not yet good enough even as a first draft!

  21. While I certainly cannot speak for everyone involved in INM, the local group I am a part of is not drawing `ego-centered’ people, quite the opposite. We are not top down, in fact I pay little if any attention to the four `founders’ precisely because we are too busy working to empower the most oppressed in our community.

    I am struck by the irony of these accusations coming from someone so apparently ego driven herself that she makes this statement: `INM attracts very ego-centric individuals to it. I have personally witnessed this tendency from the beginning. ‘

    Well, if she personally claims to have `witnessed’ something, based on what surely can only be a very small sample (her personal experience) that we have no reason to believe is representative, it MUST be true.

    While the author claims not to be jealous, she sure sounds like she is coming from a place of having a wounded ego herself.

    INM may not save the world but at least it got a lot of people off of the couch, helping others and not just pointing fingers at each other on the internet.

    • From what I have observed locally, the main INM organizers have been those who regularly perform in public, including pop singers and dancing/singing groups. At other times it was straight up collaborators who previously sang and danced for the 2010 Olympics (even while we protested against them). If you’re ignoring the dictates of the four ‘official’ founders, then you’re doing pretty much what Wendy suggested we do.

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